WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Tons and tons of U.S. produced commodities will soon be headed to elementary schools in exotic-sounding locations. According to an Oct. 15 announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the government is donating more than 64 tons of everything from rice to soybean oil to raisins to charitable organizations.

All of the donations are being made under the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, administered by the Foreign Agricultural Service.

More than 5,000 metrics tons of commodities will go to World Vision, a private voluntary organization, for a child education and nutrition project in Afghanistan.

The commodities, which include 2,500 tons of wheat, 1,030 tons of rice, 1,030 tons of lentils and 480 tons of vegetable oil, are part of a USDA assistance package valued at around $9 million for this project.

World Vision will use the commodities to feed 37,000 school children and 675 teachers in two impoverished provinces in Afghanistan for one year. Children in primary schools will receive take-home food packages to increase their nutritional status. This program will also improve the quality of instruction and the level of community support by providing food packages to teachers, providing classroom kits, furnishing classrooms, constructing nine new schools and promoting school gardens.

Another 9,300 metric tons of U.S. agricultural commodities are being donated to Mercy-USA for Aid and Development (MUSA), a private voluntary organization, for a child education and nutrition project in Albania.

The charitable group will use the commodities to provide school lunches for 32,000 students for one academic year. This program aims to improve attendance and educational performance, reduce the dropout rate, and improve the hygiene and health knowledge of the students.

With a value of $3.2 million, the USDA assistance package includes 9,000 tons of hard red winter wheat, 100 tons of medium-grain milled rice, 50 tons of great northern beans and 150 tons of vegetable oil.

A child education and nutrition project in Nicaragua called Project Concern International will receive 960 metric tons of red beans, rice, corn, soybean oil, corn-soy milk and dehydrated potatoes, with a total value of $5.4 million.

The commodities will be distributed to 230 schools, and will be used to improve student enrollment, attendance, nutrition and achievement by providing a daily breakfast to 33,000 students, 460 teachers and 460 parents for two years.

In Guatemala, 6,000 metric tons of U.S. commodities will go to Food for the Poor, a private voluntary organization for a mother/child health and education program.

Commodities being shipped to that organization include rice, corn-soy blend, light red kidney beans, textured soy protein, soybean oil, wheat flour, buckwheat grits and groats and raisins.

Food for the Poor will implement a direct feeding program for 100,000 children, mothers, teachers, caregivers and volunteers who help with the program.

USDA will donate 670 metric tons of rice, lentils and sunflower oil to Catholic Relief Services for a child education and nutrition program in Benin. The commodities will be used to provide a daily breakfast and lunch to 12,500 students for two school years.

In Kyrgyzstan, 1,390 tons of food will go to Mercy Corps for a child education and nutrition project. The donated commodities include 600 metric tons of flour, 400 tons of rice, 290 tons of soybean oil and 100 tons of dehydrated potato flakes.

Mercy Corp will then distribute the commodities to 50,000 school children in kindergartens and boarding schools in Kyrgyzstan over a 12-month period. The program will also provide grants for school repairs and equipment.

International Partnership for Human Development in Moldova will receive 12,340 of donated U.S. commodities. The commodities, which include bread flour, potato flakes, vegetable oil and pinto beans, are party of a USDA assistance package valued at around $9 million for this project.

The charitable organization will provide school lunches to 300,000 children in 2,700 schools and preschools over a seven-month period. In addition to focusing on school enrollment and attendance, this project will improve kitchens in the poorest rural schools, and initiate a system to monitor the physical development and nutrition of preschool children.

The American Red Cross will receive 18,420 metric tons of soybean meal, soybean oil, and a corn-soy blend to feed Vietnamese families.

The corn-soy blend and soybean oil will be distributed to more than 48,000 families of malnourished children for one year. The soybean meal will be sold in Vietnam with the proceeds going to meals for school children, and to provide school and community-based health, nutrition and sanitation education.

In Lebanon, International Orthodox Christian Charities will receive 10,000 metric tons of wheat to provide mid-morning meals to 35,000 students over a seven-month period.

All total, USDA expects to provide 150,000 tons of U.S. commodities to 21 countries under fiscal 2003 McGovern-Dole donation agreements.

The McGovern-Dole program provides for USDA donations of agricultural commodities to promote education, child development and food security for some of the world's poorest children.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com